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Dr K Ayyappa Panikar is one of the pioneers of modernism in Malayalam poetry. In his poem, I Can’t Help Blossoming he speaks about the importance of having the contentment of accomplishing one’s own life’s mission on this earth. This is a poem expressing the themes of change, loss and nostalgia. The poet exemplifies this theme with the tale of golden cassia, which cannot help blossoming in the season of Vishu.

The duty entrusted with the golden cassia is to blossom during the festival of Vishu and it is bound to perform its duty. The theme of change is evident in the poem as the poet contrasts the past and the present of the golden cassia. The withered sprigs of the golden cassia have now changed into golden flower lockets and are celebrating the splendour of the festival. Another dominant change in the poem is the change of green into yellow. The golden cassia undergoes a transition from a period of hardships to hopeful days of luck and goodness. The heat of the burning summer and the wilderness of the freezing winter has vanished with the coming of the yellow flowers. They have vanished and the miseries are shifted to sweet smiles of yellow.

The golden cassia is celebrating its yellow colour. In the season of Vishu, the golden cassia blossoms completely and it looks like wearing a yellow garment. Yellow is a colour associated with happiness and sunshine. The golden cassia is an integral part of the sighting of the Vishukkani, which is believed to bring prosperity and happiness. Yellow, in the poem, stands for hope. The golden cassia embraces its yellow flowers after a tumultuous period of suffering and hardship. With the arrival of the yellow flowers, the green in the golden cassia disappeared along with its miseries. Hence, for the golden cassia yellow denoted the hope for a new beginning. Fate has bestowed on cassia only yellow colour and it is the colour of love and the colour of illusion.

On the other hand, the golden cassia also laments the loss of the last Vishu festival. The pain of that loss and the agony of a hard time it had been through add to the theme of loss in the poem. The golden cassia kept its eye closed since the last Vishu and it is relining in the memory of the past auspicious event. For many years, the cassia tree has been fulfilling its duty in being a part of Vishukkani as an epitome of prosperity, happiness and good luck. It never failed to blossom in the season of Vishu. It always ensured its presence in the good luck and happiness of the people who followed the ritual of Vishukkani.

Dr K Ayyappa Panikar

The poem is a product of imagination bearing a largely metaphoric relation to the environment. In the form of a soliloquy of the tree, it articulates a helpless lot of golden cassia that cannot but blossom in the season of Vishu casting a spell of golden yellow all around: ‘Am I not the golden cassia, and isn’t this the season of Vishu, oh, I can’t help blossoming!’. The line itself points to the themes of change, loss and nostalgia in the poem. It is the season of Vishu and it is the golden cassia. It has to blossom and it has to do justice to its responsibility. So the change is inevitable.

Blending the real and the imaginative with exquisite care and novelty I Can’t Help Blossoming is unique in its simplicity. It treads hitherto unexplored paths, dramatizes the ordinary, senses the imminent and in the process often touches those rarefied heights of pure pleasure. There is a disarming frankness and freshness of approach, with images that constantly surprise and linger. The simultaneity of experience is a feature that holds a strong attraction for the poet and it becomes easy to see how he can leave the reader inside the deeper meaning that exists beyond the seeming simplicity of his lines. And how easily, how safely he can be, in his embrace of life on earth.

Blossoming is a predestined chore from which neither the tree nor the poet has any escape. His poetry is engaged with the living situations of life. The arrival of the season will stir the tree from slumber and fill its sap with new energy and elements. The chemistry of the process covers the whole tree with flowers, and the tree discovers itself in its newfound beauty. Despite all the adverse situations, the golden cassia discharges its duty faithfully, once the season of Vishu has arrived. The golden cassia reminds us of the happiness gained by achieving the goal in one’s life. 

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δάσκαλος (dáskalos) means the teacher in Greek. Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature since 2006. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges coming under this directorate and is now posted at the Department of English, Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of the lecture notes that she prepared by referring to various sources, for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.

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